Free State Festival 2023 brought audiences and artists together both near and far for a full week of community-building experiences from June 26-July 2. From the inspiring opening night at the Dole Institute with activist Janet Murguía to a show-stopping finale of local musicians coming together through the music of Judee Sill -and every piece of magic in between!- it was a profound week chock full of togetherness, reflections and calls to action.
We were inspired by filmmaker Boots Riley, delighted by comedian Chris Estrada, uplifted by musician BLKBOK, and emamored by artist DJ Spooky. The week of films brought activist Vivian Anderson, and filmmakers Garrett Zevgetis, Schon Duncan, Kelli Gonzalez, Agalisiga “Chuj” Mackey, Michael McDermit and Ryan Redcorn here to Lawrence from states such as Oklahoma, South Carolina and Massachusetts for dyamic Q&As.
Homegrown Kansas talents Kevin Willmott, Robert Hurst, CJ Janovy, The Embarrassment, Danny Szlauderbach, JS Hampton, Robert Brogden III, Patrick Poe, Lolo Loren, BLACK Lawrence, Bad Alaskan, Gaylene Crouser, Ronda LeValdo, Rebekka Schlichting, Heidi Lynne Gluck, Kawehi, CS Luxem, Dustin Kinsey, Jackson Graham, Bradley McKellip, Lonita Cook, David Tamez, Alicia Kelly, Regina Klenjoski ,Tristian Griffin, Rachel Dirks, Russell Clark and Avery Parkhurst (and many more accompanying musicians and dancers!) shared their impressive talents with us on center stage.
Thank you to all of the audiences that made this week possible, the artists who shared their work, the panelists and moderators who lent their voices, our dedicated festival staff, the FSF film advisory board members, the staff of the Lawrence Arts Center, team Liberty Hall and each of our community partners for making Free State State Festival 2023 the best year yet.
The Free State Festival is produced by the Lawrence Arts Center and made possible through grant funding from the City of Lawrence’s Transient Guest Tax program, the City of Lawrence Community Arts Grant and Explore Lawrence. Media partners include Kansas Public Radio, KJHK 90.7 FM and Lawrence Business Magazine.
Our community partners include: The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, KU Film and Media Studies, Audio-Reader Network, the Spencer Museum of Art, the Watkins Museum of History, Lawrence Talks, Free State Brewing Co., Liberty Hall, Lawrence Talks, Taco Zone, Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop, Terrebonne Po’Boys, The Native Chef LLC, the Cider Gallery, Lawrence Community Orchestra, Elevate Arts of Wellness, Lied Center of Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University, Downtown Lawrence Inc., the Lawrence Public Library, the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas, and Theatre Lawrence.
FUN FACTS ABOUT THIS YEAR’S FEST:
– We sold out of All Access passes
– 3,000 audience members attended events
– Comedian Chris Estrada is a longtime fan of The Embarrassment
– Boots Riley wore his BLACK Lawrence shirt on the way to the airport
– Filmmaker Ryan RedCorn has a beautiful photograph on exhibit at the Spencer Museum of Art
– Robert Brogden Sr. spent his 90th birthday with us
IMPACT OF FREE STATE FEST:
– For every dollar the City of Lawrence invested in the festival, two dollars came back directly to our community through the festival’s expenditures on artist fees, hotel room stays, local vendors and small businesses.
– Indirect expenditures, such as our attendees’ food purchases, sales tax and retail shopping puts this return on investment much higher. According to the Americans for the Arts Arts and Economic Prosperity calculator, for every 1 dollar invested, 3 dollars came back to the community!
– Between 10-15% of our audiences came from out of state. 40% came from outside the city of Lawrence.
– While the economic impact of the festival should be recognized, it is the cultural impact of the festival tells the real story. The tangible connections between visiting and local artists, audiences and organizations, were palpable this year. It’s a meaningful exchange of ideas that will be felt in our community for years to come.